City seeks new po­lice over­sight com­mit­tee

Panel would pro­mote com­mu­nity-of­fi­cer links

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Yvonne Wenger ywenger@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/yvon­newenger

The Bal­ti­more City Coun­cil is pe­ti­tion­ing state law­mak­ers to cre­ate an over­sight panel to steer Bal­ti­more’s com­mu­nity polic­ing ef­forts.

City Coun­cil­man Bran­don M. Scott in­tro­duced a res­o­lu­tion at Mon­day’s City Coun­cil meet­ing ask­ing the Gen­eral Assem­bly to au­tho­rize the com­mit­tee to an­nu­ally eval­u­ate the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the po­lice and Bal­ti­more res­i­dents and de­velop a strat­egy to en­gage the pub­lic. It passed unan­i­mously.

Po­lice need a cal­cu­lated ap­proach to in­ter­act­ing with the com­mu­nity, with plans catered to in­di­vid­ual neigh­bor­hoods, Scott said.

“How are our of­fi­cers go­ing to en­gage with young peo­ple, at rec cen­ters, on street cor­ners, with­out a 911 call be­ing in­volved?” Scott said. “This is part of their work.”

Del. An­to­nio L. Hayes, a Bal­ti­more Demo­crat, is ex­pected to file leg­is­la­tion to cre­ate the panel when the Gen­eral Assem­bly con­venes in Jan­uary.

“This could cre­ate a link be­tween com­mu­ni­ties and the Po­lice Depart­ment,” Hayes said. “Right now, there is a lot of lip ser­vice around com­mu­nity polic­ing. Hope­fully, this will pro­vide some­thing more sus­tain­able.”

Hayes said other ju­ris­dic­tions around the coun­try have cre­ated sim­i­lar boards. He plans to spend the com­ing months work­ing to build sup­port for the pro­posal.

Cre­at­ing such a com­mit­tee would re­quire state ac­tion be­cause the City Coun­cil does not have the au­thor­ity to do so. The bill would al­low the city to cre­ate the com­mit­tee, and the coun­cil would de­cide how it would func­tion.

Po­lice spokesman T.J. Smith said the depart­ment would work with the coun­cil as leg­isla­tive ef­forts pro­ceed. “We are al­ways sup­port­ive of new op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­gage the com­mu­nity,” Smith said.

Scott en­vi­sions the panel be­ing made up of about 20 peo­ple. He wants one mem­ber of the pub­lic from each of the Po­lice Depart­ment’s nine dis­tricts, a pub­lic hous­ing res­i­dent, a youth rep­re­sen­ta­tive, the po­lice com­mis­sioner and mul­ti­ple elected of­fi­cials or their de­signees.

The com­mit­tee would is­sue a re­port ev­ery Novem­ber out­lin­ing ways for po­lice to cre­ate con­sis­tently pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tions be­tween of­fi­cers and com­mu­nity mem­bers, Scott said. Of­fi­cers, he said, could be re­quired to par­tic­i­pate in neigh­bor­hood events and in­ter­act with school­child­ren, African-Amer­i­cans, ex­of­fend­ers and mem­bers of the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der com­mu­nity.

Scott said cre­at­ing the com­mit­tee could build on ac­tions the Po­lice Depart­ment will be tak­ing to re­pair re­la­tion­ships af­ter the re­cent re­lease of the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice re­port on Bal­ti­more polic­ing. The re­port con­cluded that city po­lice rou­tinely vi­o­lated peo­ple’s civil rights through dis­crim­i­na­tion, ex­ces­sive use of force and other ac­tions.

Cre­at­ing the steer­ing com­mit­tee would pro­tect the ef­forts from fu­ture com­mis­sion­ers who might want to aban­don com­mu­nity polic­ing, Scott said.

“Agen­cies are re­spon­si­ble for what they’re held ac­count­able for, and right now they’re not held ac­count­able for com­mu­nity en­gage­ment,” Scott said. “We need to push the en­velop a lit­tle fur­ther. Our city will be much greater for it.”

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